Shaun Tan’s beautiful graphic novel about the story of an immigrant and his journeys through his brand new world and life hit pretty close to home for most Americans. Being a country formed by immigrants makes this book all the more relatable when thinking of one’s own journey, or their parent’s, or their grandparent’s.
The audience experiences the journey of a man leaving his family behind in their home country to come to a better one before sending after them. He escapes the “creature” in his home and makes it to the dream world safely. After exploring and getting aided by other immigrants, the man manages to send after his wife and daughter. Before doing so, we see the man journey on a ship to the dream world, arriving and looking for a room, finding a very small one and making it as homey as possible with a photograph of his family, finding a pet that he goes almost everywhere with, looking for jobs, visiting the market and making friends, and finally the arrival of his family.
The Arrival captures the true immigrant experience in many ways. From the long journey to a new land, to leaving a family behind in hopes of a better future for them all. I found myself thinking of my parents arriving in this strange new land seeking better opportunities for themselves and the future family they were to have. The “creature” aspect of the comic was great and it made me think of communist leaders or any type of rebel group or terrorist groups in other countries and how they are part of someones decision to escape their reality and come to the “dream world” that Tan re-imagined in his book. Immigrants helping one another out was another really great and true point that the author drew about and it made me think of one of my favorite movies, Paraiso Travel (2008), in which the main character gets lost and a woman begins to help him; the woman’s husband begins to scold her for helping out a “miscreant” and she says if they don’t help each other who will?
Being out of place was also a huge part of the book and it made me think back to my Sports Management class. I love the class and all but the majority of the time it’s just the teacher talking about football or baseball and all the guys in the class getting riled up over something that I know absolutely nothing about. It makes me feel a bit inadequate about my knowledge in my own major, but then I think about how the majority of them would be absolutely lost in a class that just spoke about soccer (which would be my ideal class) and I just try to go along with it all.
The Arrival was overall very insightful in what it would be like to be an immigrant and putting in work to bring your family over, and it gave me an image of what my family members did when they arrived to this country. It was truly a beautiful story told through amazing illustrations and it had no need for words to accompany the drawings.